Sao different architectonic form5. Also, its hard

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Sao Paulo is HOT! I’m so excited
things have finally all come together and I’m going to be on exchange in this
stunning city so different to my own – and that’s not even the best bit! …

I’m staying in the Copan Building
for the duration of my studies! The extra rent was so worth it. I’ll write more
when I get there.




Oscar Niemeyer formed a
masterpiece when he designed this building in 19511.
He sees architecture often as sculpture, and always as art, and this resounds
loudly in Latin America especially.

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“I have always considered
architecture as a work of art, and only as such is it capable of subsisting,2”.


Some say the flowing
concave-convex façade is adopted to represent the tilde accent on the São of the city’s name3,
or simply to fully utilise the curvilinear shaped site4.
Though both have merit, personally, now that I’m finally
here and have seen the spirited celebration of the tropic that Niemeyer has
carved, the connotations which spring to mind are that of sensuality and of
nature: especially when inserted amongst the impenetrable steel and glass
surfaces of dogmatic, homophonic skyscrapers. I may be romanticising his
inclination to stand out from the crowd, but it is impossible to not register
the feat of commitment to impregnate this city with not a curving adornment but
an altogether different architectonic form5.
Also, its hard to believe the stunning Sugar Loaf Mountains6
which stand in the centre of his view from his office window did not entice him
to explore their form.


“I am attracted to free flowing,
sensual curves. The curves that I find in the mountains of my country, in the
sinuousness of its rivers, in the waves of the ocean, and on the body of the
beloved woman. Curves make up the entire Universe, the curved Universe of




The curved form is not
constricted or confined to the street level or interior of the site as in
previous urban interventions. It tempers its surrounding verticality with
sensuous horizontality that invites the eye, at every level, to surf along the
undulating blades of the great concrete wave. The characteristics of modern
Brazilian architecture consist of two specific elements: the use of reinforced
concrete and the environmental strategy adopted for the climate8,
particularly the sun. Niemeyer’s Copan was an architectural expression made
possible by the technical potentials of reinforced concrete9,
the deep glazed concrete brise-soleils that the building is so renowned for
were constructed with and fastened to, the concrete structure of the building.
They are used for shading and cooling as well as their aesthetics to introduce
movement to the static grid of the surrounding city. All other required
elements such as columns or guardrails, are set back in darker colours10
to allow the ribbons of concrete to continue unimpeded. The mass of the building
constitutes an imposing thirty storey apartment block, reaching 140m high. Containing
a staggering, 5,000 residents in 1,160 apartments11,
one of each of which is now me and mine! The apartments
range from cubbyhole studios to sprawling penthouses housing a greater number in
the Copan’s one residential block than in 547 Brazilian cities12.




On my way into the building, I
was greeted first by a pedestrian street open to the sky. Behind this was the
baseline of the building, its glass front shops with white rendered panes and
timber-slat cladding13 is
meticulously detailed and contrasts sharply with the homogeneity of the facade
of the block that continues above it. This contrast serves to illustrate the
permeability of the ground floor and to encourage circulation into the narrower
Winding through these arcades, forming internalised streets below the building
awakens a sense of discovery and of possibility as I explored the various shops
and restaurants which are often owned by those who live in the Copan15.
The ground level and public interaction of the Copan is not an empty space
afterthought, it is a true baseline where amenities and business opportunity
win over extravagant lobbies or private space. The arcade is interspersed with perfunctory
residents’ entrances, bordered by deep-stained vertical timber slats: worn down
and with the smell and colour of cigarette smoke clinging to them, making it
all the more intriguing. There’s a story and a soul in the Copan,
it is a city within a city and just like São Paulo it has an individuality,
always accessible a bit beyond the immediate: in the details. The wood panelled
elevators16 carry you to the upper
floors and open onto sloped walkways instead of stairs. Then as you enter the
apartment you are greeted with floor to ceiling windows which are somewhat
unexpected in this heat or within a building with such a unique, strata like façade.
And the views… the views are incredible.




Richard Florida wrote his seminal
book ‘The Rise of the Creative Class’
in 2002, this new term, spread like wild fire. Developments aimed towards these
creative types began to pop up and the shift was visible in many places around
the world: a shift which also pushed the regeneration and move back to the
inner city. The book focuses on diversity and creativity as the basic drivers
of innovation17 which
then leads to regional and national growth: however, these answers or this
distinction of people doesn’t seem to be entirely advantageous. Florida himself
even doubts the proposed solution, he said this recently in regard to the
reception and application of the content in his previous book:


“Young intellectuals
brought prosperity but also gentrification,18”


Suddenly the people he thought that could innovate and
transform countries are being blamed for creating greater divides within cities
and even ushering in a wave of inequality19. There
is no doubt urban revival was and is happening, but it has carved a new divide:
tight clusters of affluent people in cities and around the transit hubs in the
suburbs alongside huge spans of disadvantaged people in the city and suburbs
alike. This distressing patchwork metropolis needs to be resolved. Is the Copan
a model for resolution as it is designed to encourage interaction of people
from various backgrounds or size of home? Or is it only really suited to the
‘creative class’? Is this distinction a toxic thought process that condemns the building salvaging it only for
the architectural phenomena associated which intrigues the many, though mostly
made up of a creative class?

1 Oscar Niemeyer – Matthieu Salvaing

2 Art in Latin American Architecture


4 Oscar Niemeyer. Obras y proyectos – Works
and Projects

5 Brazil’s Modern Architecture – Elisabetta

6 Oscar Niemeyer and Brazilian Free-form

7 ON The Curves of Time – the memoirs of Oscar

8 Art in Latin American Architecture

9 Oscar Niemeyer and Brazilian Free-form

10 Oscar Niemeyer – Curves of Irreverence

11 Oscar Niemeyer – Curves of Irreverence

12 IBGE (Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística) –

13 Oscar Niemeyer – Curves of Irreverence

14 Oscar Niemeyer – Curves of Irreverence

15 youtube

16 Youtube video




Categories: Sculpture


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